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What Is Worse in Minnesota: A DUI or DWI?

The acronym for the offense of drunken driving varies across state lines. Some states refer to this offense as driving under influence, while others call it driving while intoxicated. In Minnesota, DWI stands for driving while impaired. 

While other states use the terms DUI and DWI to describe different criminal offenses, these terms are interchangeable in Minnesota. While many use the term DUI to describe a drunken driving offense, the acronym has no basis under state law. 

No matter what you call the offense, a conviction can have dramatic consequences on your life. To fight back against the charges against you, speak with the seasoned Minnesota DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller as soon as possible. 

Minnesota DWI Law

You will find the laws governing DWI at Minnesota Statute Section 169A.20. Pursuant to the statute, it is illegal to operate, drive, or have physical control over a vehicle while impaired.

Defining Physical Control

The definition of operating or driving a motor vehicle is fairly straightforward. The concept of exerting “physical control” over a vehicle may be more abstract for some people. This portion of the statute exists to cover anyone that is intoxicated and in a position that they could readily drive, even if they have not yet. 

The police will look at a range of factors when determining if someone is in actual physical control of a vehicle. These factors include the location of the car keys, whether or not the vehicle is running, and where within the vehicle the accused is located. 

Typically, a person in the passenger seat of an operational vehicle with the keys in the ignition is more likely to face DWI charges than someone outside the vehicle with the keys nowhere in sight. 

Defining Impairment

Prosecutors pursuing a DWI charge have seven different avenues to establish the accused was impaired. Each of these seven options is laid out in the DWI statute, and the state only has to establish one of them to secure a conviction. The factors the state must prove to obtain a DWI conviction include:

  1. The person is under the influence of alcohol
  2. The person is under the influence of a controlled substance
  3. The person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance and the person knows or has reason to know that the substance has the capacity to cause impairment
  4. The person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) to (3)
  5. The person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the motor vehicle is 0.08 or more
  6. The vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 or more
  7. The person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols

Consequences of a DWI Conviction

A conviction for DWI under Minnesota law can have a variety of consequences. The statutes spell out the formal penalties that come with a conviction, including jail time, fines, and the suspension of driving privileges. 

For first-time offenders, a DWI might not result in additional jail time. Repeat offenders or those with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could face much steeper penalties. 

In addition to the traditional penalties of a DWI conviction, there are other consequences you might not expect. In cases where a child was in the car at the time of the arrest, a person convicted of DWI could forfeit their vehicle. DWI convictions could also have collateral consequences like the loss of a job or a negative impact on the immigration process. 

Talk to a Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyer about Your Options

While a DWI charge is a serious matter, there is no guarantee that an arrest will result in your conviction. The Minnesota DWI Defense attorneys at Gerald Miller have a long track record of taking on the prosecution in a DWI case and winning. To discuss your defense options, call us at (612) 440-4610 and schedule a free consultation as soon as possible. 

About the author

William Bailey

Bill brings his strategic mind and calm demeanor to criminal defense. From DWIs to murder charges, he’s tackled it all across Minnesota, leaving a trail of satisfied clients and courtroom victories. He won’t sugarcoat the process, but with his empathy and expertise, he’ll guide you through it, ensuring you understand every step and feel supported every way. When he’s not in the courtroom, catch him at the lake or cheering on his favorite teams.

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